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First Mummies May Have Been Inspired by Field of Corpses 78

sciencehabit writes with a story about a field strewn with corpses in shallow graves. From the article: "Trekking through Chile's Atacama Desert 7000 years ago, hunter-gatherers known as the Chinchorro walked in the land of the dead. Thousands of shallowly buried human bodies littered the earth, their leathery corpses pockmarking the desolate surroundings. According to new research, the scene inspired the Chinchorro to begin mummifying their dead, a practice they adopted roughly 3000 years before the Egyptians embraced it."
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First Mummies May Have Been Inspired by Field of Corpses

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  • Confused (Score:4, Interesting)

    by readin ( 838620 ) on Monday August 13, 2012 @07:31PM (#40978951)
    I found the story a bit confusing. If the climate was so dry that corpses didn't decompose, how was it wet enough to support a human population? Why weren't the corpses buried or burned in the first place? Were they burying the corpses in shallow graves and having them re-emerge for some reason?
  • Re:Confused (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Monday August 13, 2012 @07:43PM (#40979057) Journal

    The easiest explanation for the other bit is that the bodies came back "up" due to wind erosion, which the Atacama, like many deserts, would probably have more than enough of to go around.

  • Re:Confused (Score:4, Interesting)

    by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Monday August 13, 2012 @08:38PM (#40979589)

    Or, alternatively, the bodies were never buried by humans in the first place, and were instead partially buried by winds. If people set out through that desert trying to find another oasis, and didn't bring sufficient supplies (bearing in mind that they would have no idea what "sufficient" was), they would likely die too quickly to bury their dead.

  • Re:Confused (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ericcc65 ( 2663835 ) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @12:36AM (#40981141)
    I lived in the Atacama dessert for a couple of years so I can attest to the oasis concept, at least in part. For the most part I lived in cities and didn't know where I got my water, although I know there is one main river that makes it down to Antofagasta (the Loa river). But one time I took a trip a few hours inland. Now, keep in mind, the Atacama dessert (apart from the cities) isn't like your Mojave or anything like that, with tumbleweeds and Joshua trees and cacti. It's more like the surface of the moon (in fact there is a "valle de la luna"). Between cities there is nothing but dirt.

    At any rate, we eventually arrived at any incredible oasis. A nice stream flowing in a small valley, or more like a tunnel or crevice. I don't know if they were planted but there were tons of fruit trees (membrillo). Lots of lush vegetation. It was truly amazing, like something out of a movie, except you didn't see it until you were there because it was down below the surface.

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly